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Quotations

Contents

Double and single quotation marks
Capitalization and punctuation
Block quotations
Omissions
Footnotes within quotations
Quotations from resolutions, decisions and United Nations documents

Direct quotations should reproduce the original text exactly and should be carefully checked for accuracy. Only the following changes are permitted:

  • The initial letter may be changed to a capital or lower-case letter as necessary.
  • The final punctuation may be omitted as necessary.
  • The original footnotes and footnote indicators may be omitted.
  • Typographical and other clearly unintentional errors may be corrected.

Sources must be provided for all quotations. When the source is a United Nations document, paragraph numbers, not pages, should be cited. For information on the citation of sources, see Footnotes, endnotes and parenthetical references.

Most of the rules set out below apply to English only.

Double and single quotation marks

Quoted words, sentences and paragraphs are enclosed within double quotation marks. Single quotation marks are used to enclose quotations within quotations.

Example:

Rule 60 of the rules of procedure of the Council states that "the phrase 'members present and voting' means members casting an affirmative or negative vote".

For quotations within quotations within quotations, use double quotation marks.

Double quotation marks are also used around specialized terms when they are first introduced and defined. Thereafter, these words should be written without quotation marks.

Capitalization and punctuation

If a quotation forms an essential grammatical part of a sentence, it begins with a lower-case letter and the final punctuation is placed outside the quotation marks.

Example:

At the same meeting, the representative of Chile orally revised draft resolution A/C.4/58/L... by inserting, at the end of operative paragraph 4, the words "or at the highest level possible".

A quotation consisting of one or more complete sentences is normally introduced by a colon and begins with a capital letter. The final punctuation is placed inside the quotation marks when it coincides with the end of the sentence.

Example:

In his report on the work of the Organization, the Secretary-General made the following observation:  "When it was created more than half a century ago, in the convulsive aftermath of world war, the United Nations reflected humanity’s greatest hopes for a just and peaceful global community. It still embodies that dream."       

Block quotations

Quotations that consist of a complete paragraph or more than five typed lines are normally set off as an indented block of text.

Example:

In his report on the work of the Organization, the Secretary-General made the following observation:

When it was created more than half a century ago, in the convulsive aftermath of world war, the United Nations reflected humanity's greatest hopes for a just and peaceful global community. It still embodies that dream. We remain the only global institution with the legitimacy and scope that derive from universal membership, and a mandate that encompasses development, security and human rights as well as the environment. In this sense, the United Nations is unique in world affairs.

It is standard publishing practice to eliminate quotation marks at the beginning and end of a block quotation. In United Nations documents, however, quotation marks may be used where necessary for the sake of clarity--for example, where the quoted material exceeds a page and it is difficult to see that the material is indented or where the quoted material contains a separate set of paragraph numbers.

Example:

5. After operative paragraph 47, a new paragraph 48 was inserted, reading:

          "48. Requests the Committee to consider ways to improve participation by member States and entities with observer status in its work, with a view to agreeing on specific recommendations in that regard at its forty-eighth session"

and the remaining paragraphs were renumbered accordingly.

If it is necessary to use quotation marks in a block quotation, insert them at the beginning of each paragraph and subparagraph, before headings included in the quoted matter and at the end of the last paragraph. Quotation marks are not inserted before ellipsis points that mark omitted paragraphs (see Omissions below).

Omissions

Ellipsis points (dots) are used to mark omissions within a quotation. It is not normally necessary to use ellipsis points for omissions at the beginning or end of a quotation. Three ellipsis points (…) are used for omissions within a sentence and between complete sentences. To indicate the omission of one or more paragraphs within a block quotation, insert the ellipsis points on a separate line of text and align them with the normal paragraph indents.

Example:

            She reminded the Committee that under article 38 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child:

“1. States Parties shall undertake to respect …rules of international humanitarian law applicable to them in armed conflicts which are relevant to the child.

“3. States Parties shall refrain from recruiting any person who has not attained the age of fifteen years into their armed forces. In recruiting among those persons who have attained the age of fifteen years but who have not attained the age of eighteen years, States Parties shall endeavour to give priority to those who are oldest.”

Footnotes within quotations

Footnotes contained within quotations are omitted unless the meaning or purpose of the quotation would be obscured without the footnote. If the footnote must be retained, keep the original footnote number and place the footnote directly below the quotation, separated by a 10-space line. The final quotation marks should follow the footnote.

Quotations from resolutions, decisions and United Nations documents

Short passages from resolutions and decisions or from previously issued reports are normally presented as indirect quotations and are therefore not enclosed in quotation marks. It may be necessary to change the verb tenses in the indirect quotation to make them consistent with the rest of the text. While wording that is not strictly relevant to the context may be omitted, the indirect quotation should nevertheless adhere as closely as possible to the original text. For additional information and examples, see Style/Indirect or reported speech.

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